JCK Asks…Padma Lakshmi

The Top Chef host/designer is a “very lucky girl”

For spring fashion, it’s all about the 1970s, and Padma Lakshmi’s line for her 2-year-old Padma Collection is right on for the decade that was dyno-mite. With her trademark beading and fringe, Lakshmi uses materials such as solar quartz and pink opals to create pieces that prove, once again, sisters are doing it for themselves. The former model, raised in India and the United States, has spent seven seasons as the host of Bravo’s Top Chef; did we mention she’s also a cookbook author, an actress, and a single mother? JCK passed our questionnaire to the renaissance woman. Now, really, can you dig it?

Age: 40

Hometown: New York City

Number of years in the biz: Jewelry since April 2009; fashion since the early ’90s

Number of employees you oversee: 6

Family/pets: One beautiful daughter

Describe your personal style: Rambling gypsy meets Bergdorf bohemian

Padma Collection earrings

First piece you ever designed: A belly chain in gold and seed pearls

The single piece of jewelry you can’t live without: An emerald Fabergé ring I got a few years ago

Best piece of advice you ever received: “It’s not what you do, but how you do it.”

Worst piece of advice: “Stick to your convictions, no matter what. Even if everybody tells you otherwise.” Sometimes the universe is really trying to help you.

First job ever: Math tutor to my neighbor’s son

How did you get started? I had ideas of what I wanted to wear in my head, but I wasn’t finding it in the marketplace. Coming from India, my family and I have a long tradition of designing jewelry for ourselves.

Courtesy of Gemfields

Favorite gemstones: Emerald and sapphires of ­various colors

Your new line is a nod to ’70s feminism. Who inspires you? Early Cher, but also Diana Ross and all of those ’70s singers who were so outrageous the way they dressed—flamboyant, flawless, and brave.

Jewelry you’re wearing right now: My Fabergé ring, a gold St. Christopher medal on my neck, and some orchid earrings from our fall ’10 collection

Five items on your desk right now: Picture of my mother from the 1960s and picture of my daughter (both in antique silver frames), a lot of strings of various stones all piled up in little mounds, a few pencils, a Waterman pen from the 1800s, and a half-eaten Balance bar.

What’s the best thing you ever ate on Top Chef? My 40th birthday cake that everybody on set surprised me with (for sentimental reasons)

Five songs on your playlist: “Ramble On,” Led ­Zeppelin; anything by Prince; “Comfortably Numb,” Pink Floyd; “Summer Breeze,” the Isley Brothers; and some Drake to keep in this century!

Exercise regimen: I get tired just thinking about it! Boxing, skipping rope, running up and down stairs, weights, spinning, Pilates, lifting my daughter up 50 times a day.

What did you have for breakfast? A three–egg-white omelette with one slice of multigrain toast, pomegranate, grapefruit, and one cup of very strong cinnamon coffee.

Guilty pleasure: I feel no guilt in pleasure of any kind.


Drink (daytime/evening): Daytime: white rose and jasmine tea from our tea and spices company, Easy Exotic. Evening: usually a single glass of crisp, very cold, very good champagne.

First website you check every day (not your own!): I don’t check the Web every day!

Scent: I make my own perfume with organic essential oils in the morning depending on my mood, but it will usually contain notes of geranium and neroli.

Superstitious? No hats on beds, no walking under ladders, and always touch blue while crossing a railroad track.

Book you’re reading: Brain Rules for Baby

Book you’ve been meaning to get to: Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

Preferred news source: The New York Times

Main means of transportation: Raising my right hand at the corner of every New York street

Favorite movie: The Philadelphia Story

Who would play you in your life story? She looks nothing like me, but if that doesn’t matter, Julianne Moore.

Personal motto: “Whatever happens today, I’m still a very lucky girl.”

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